A vinegar shrub is made by infusing fruit with vinegar and sugar. This process requires patience and some waiting time, but the result is a tart, flavorful syrup that can be enjoyed as a salad dressing or added to your cocktails. It's an easy way to preserve the flavors of fruits, herbs, and spices! Shrubbing out a batch of vinegar shrub is easy — here's how to make your own drinking vinegar:
While there is a basic formula for making your own homemade shrubs. I decided to share a few different methods on how to make drinking vinegars. Check out the different ways of making it and let me know which is your favorite!
Technique #1: Cold process drinking vinegar
This version is by far the easiest as you add the vinegar and plant matter (herbs, flowers, fruit, veg, etc...) putting in a cool place, and leaving it for a while! Once you are happy with the infusion, and it's strained then it's time to add some simple syrup.
Mix vinegar and fruit in a large jar (at least 1 quart). Cover with a lid, give it a good shake, and let it sit at room temperature for 4 days.
Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard solids and Pour them back into the glass jar. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Let stand for 3 days more at room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use as needed.
Technique 2: Heat-infused drinking vinegar
In a large saucepan, combine vinegar (white, apple cider, or malt), sugar and fruit slices, or chopped fruit over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then boil gently for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large pot, heat the sugar and vinegar until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Stir in the fruit and spices, put the lid on the jar, and steep at room temperature for 12 hours. Next, strain the fruit solids and pour all the vinegar into bottles. The shrub will stay entirely for 6 months or longer in the fridge before straining out solids and bottling the liquid.
1. Bring your vinegar, sugar, and water to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and remove from heat.
3. Pour the mixture into a sterilized jar or bottle with a lid that seals tightly. Let cool before adding fruit.
4. Add fruit of your choice — berries, citrus zest, or even whole spices such as cinnamon sticks — to the syrup mixture in your jar or bottle. Feel free to add herbs or spices (see note below).
5. Store in your refrigerator for at least 1 week before using so that the flavors can meld together and intensify (the longer you wait, the stronger it will be).
We'll take the sweet and sour approach with this shrub, a little more complex than the vinegar-only shrubs we've tried.
Note: This shrub does not have any added sugar beyond what's naturally present in the fruit.
Technique 3: Sugar + Fruit
This method is inspired by making an oleo sacrum, a simple syrup made with sugar and citrus juice. We've taken this bartending concept and applied it to shrub making. It's a great way to get the flavor out of your fruit before adding vinegar.
The time needed: 30 minutes.
Equipment needed: measuring cups/spoons, bowl, grater or Microplane, strainer or sieve, funnel / pour spout for bottles.
It's also a genius way to use up some fruits you may have sitting around in the fridge. Also, if you don't have any fresh fruit sitting around, you can always sub in dried fruit for this recipe.
Ingredients: sugar (1 teaspoon per ounce of fruit) and fruit at room temperature
This is a simple, straightforward method. You can use any sugar, but we prefer white sugar because it's neutral and won't color the fruit or vinegar.
We've found that this method works best with fresh fruit that's been grated or finely chopped. If you're using the whole fruit, like strawberries or blueberries, try chopping them into small pieces before adding them to your syrup. You can also use frozen fruit thawed entirely and drained of excess liquid.
In this recipe, we'll be making a blueberry shrub. When making shrubs at home, we like to use half-pint mason jars. The jars from Ball have a wide opening (½"), making them easy to fill and clean afterward. They also come in packs of 12, so there's no need additional storage space in your kitchen cabinet!
Technique 4: Heat-free quick infusion
The time needed: up to a week
Equipment needed: an airtight glass container, a mesh cloth (such as these), or a sieve and cheesecloth.
The vinegar shrub is made by steeping fruit in vinegar, sugar, and water. This method combines all three ingredients into one. This is ideal if you want to make large batches of shrubs at once. It's also great if you don't have access to fresh fruit or just want to try something different from the traditional methods. It's important to use white vinegar for this recipe because it can withstand the high sugar content better than apple cider vinegar.
To make your vinegar shrub, combine 1 cup of sugar with 3 cups of white wine vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 10 ounces of diced fruit in an airtight glass container (like this one).
Shake the jar well until all the sugar has dissolved (about 1 minute). Then let your mixture sit at room temperature for 5-7 days before straining out the solids using a fine mesh cloth or cheesecloth over a bowl or jar as you usually would for methods 2-3 above.
Step 1: Select your vinegar
This is the best place to start! What kind of tartness do you want your drinking vinegar to have? Light and floral? Pungent and fruity? Heavy with molasses notes (I'm looking at you, balsamic vinegar!) Here are some vinegar varieties I've tried before. Let me know what works for you!
- champagne vinegar
- rice vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- raw apple cider vinegar
- plain white vinegar
Step 2: Select your sweetener
This is another element that you may not even want to include if you want to manage the level of sweetness one drink at a time. This list below is a great place to start but the possibilities are endless.
- maple syrup
- raw honey
- brown sugar
- agave syrup
Step 3 Decide on any fruit veg, spices, or herbs
Lastly, what are you adding as the main flavor? What's great about making drinking vinegar is you can quickly try different combinations of fruit, herbs, and other fruit and plant matter resulting in combinations that will beat out any soda-though the balsamic soda cola trend is something we can get behind.
- vanilla beans
- fresh herbs
- star anise
- seasonal fruit
- foraged flowers
- Club soda
- shrub drinks
A vinegar shrub can last anywhere from 1 week to 2 months, depending on how frequently it is used. The shelf life can also depend on the type of vinegar and its quality.
Shrubs don't expire, as vinegar is a natural preservative. If you have a concern, store it in the fridge and discard if there are any signs of mold.
A shrub is a drink of fruit, sugar, water, and alcohol.
Vinegar shrubs are made by combining vinegar, sugar, and your fruit of choice in a jar. Simple syrup is also helpful for the process but isn't necessary if you have time to make the shrub recipe.